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The National Trust School of Gardening – Book Review

An in-depth practical gardening book that will easily earn its keep on your bookshelf, useful for novice and experienced gardeners alike. Reviewer Hannah Gardner is a horticulturist.

Pavilion Books, £20
ISBN 978-1911657156

The National Trust School of Gardening is a straight-talking and yet decorative book examining the craft of gardening. This up-to-date, meticulously researched resource draws on the expertise of some of the Trust’s 500 professional garden staff, and gets to the nuts and bolts of successful horticulture.

Author Rebecca Bevan, a horticultural adviser, researcher and gardener has undoubtedly done many of these tasks herself. She de-mystifies complex projects such as creating and maintaining a vegetable patch and clearly explains design concepts. The text is accessible and comprehensive but not unnecessarily technical.

Twelve expansive chapters cover everyday aspects of gardening, offering guidance on creating a garden from scratch, through to the finesse of a dedicated cut flower area. A National Trust garden is examined as a case study for each topic, the head gardeners revealing valuable insights into their gardens and methods. Several pages of practical advice neatly broken down with subheadings follow. I enjoyed the range of images; illustrative photographs, clear diagrams right where you need them and beautiful illustrations by Madeleine Smith. Sissinghurst is considered for its climbers, appropriately given its network of mellow brick walls and extensive plant collection while a study of topiary and hedges takes us to The Courts in Wiltshire.

Published by The National Trust, this book shines a light on the traditional skills of gardening but crucially it frames this within an awareness of ecology and sustainable gardening. Recognising the role that domestic gardens have in boosting biodiversity there are details of species to look out for and how to best support their needs. The final chapter considers reducing dependence on resources such as peat and water and repurposing existing materials.